Repository logo

From Theory-Inspired to Theory-Based Interventions: A Protocol for Developing and Testing a Methodology for Linking Behaviour Change Techniques to Theoretical Mechanisms of Action.

Accepted version

Change log


Michie, Susan 
Carey, Rachel N 
Johnston, Marie 
Rothman, Alexander J 
de Bruin, Marijn 


BACKGROUND: Understanding links between behaviour change techniques (BCTs) and mechanisms of action (the processes through which they affect behaviour) helps inform the systematic development of behaviour change interventions. PURPOSE: This research aims to develop and test a methodology for linking BCTs to their mechanisms of action. METHODS: Study 1 (published explicit links): Hypothesised links between 93 BCTs (from the 93-item BCT taxonomy, BCTTv1) and mechanisms of action will be identified from published interventions and their frequency, explicitness and precision documented. Study 2 (expert-agreed explicit links): Behaviour change experts will identify links between 61 BCTs and 26 mechanisms of action in a formal consensus study. Study 3 (integrated matrix of explicit links): Agreement between studies 1 and 2 will be evaluated and a new group of experts will discuss discrepancies. An integrated matrix of BCT-mechanism of action links, annotated to indicate strength of evidence, will be generated. Study 4 (published implicit links): To determine whether groups of co-occurring BCTs can be linked to theories, we will identify groups of BCTs that are used together from the study 1 literature. A consensus exercise will be used to rate strength of links between groups of BCT and theories. CONCLUSIONS: A formal methodology for linking BCTs to their hypothesised mechanisms of action can contribute to the development and evaluation of behaviour change interventions. This research is a step towards developing a behaviour change 'ontology', specifying relations between BCTs, mechanisms of action, modes of delivery, populations, settings and types of behaviour.



Behavioral Medicine, Clinical Studies as Topic, Consensus, Health Behavior, Humans, Psychological Theory

Journal Title

Ann Behav Med

Conference Name

Journal ISSN


Volume Title


Oxford University Press (OUP)
MRC (via University College London (UCL)) (CREG (G0901474))
Medical Research Council (Grant ID: MR/L011115/1)